Losing two games in a row is something the Barton Community College baseball team hasn't done since week two of the season dating back to February 18th. Coming off that loss, the Cougars racked up twelve straight victories. Barton will need that mindset heading into to the regular season finale as the 18th ranked Cougars dropped consecutive games Thursday in El Dorado to Butler Community College 2-1 and 7-5. The results set up a 1:00 p.m. Saturday showdown for the conference title as the series shifts to Lawson-Biggs Field with the first place Cougars (21-9, 38-12) trying to hold off the red-hot winners of ten straight games by the second place Grizzlies (20-10, 34-15).
Getting a career high fourteen strikeouts from ace Josh Hendrickson to go along with another five in relief from Dawson Pomeroy, the Cougars dropped the opener on a punch-in-the-gut walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning.
Rebounding in the nightcap to take a 5-0 lead through the first 2.5 innings, another home run in grand slam variety for the home half inning tie followed two innings later with a solo shot sent Barton home being swept for the first time in the season.
Game One Recap
Hendrickson and Butler's Corey Murphy put on a pitching clinic in game one, the Cougar ace sending the Grizzlies down on strikeouts while Murphy was handcuffing the Barton bats into ground balls and fly outs with the defenses showing off quality leather work.
The Grizzlies got to Hendrickson before he got settled in, with a one-out hit by pitch proving costly as a single and double steal put runners in position for a RBI groundout pushing across the first inning run.
Barton was able to tie it up in the fourth as Kaden Fowler's walk and Carson Engroff's first of two singles began the inning. Rolling up their second double play, the Grizzlies looked to escape the threat but a fielding error allowed Fowler to score from third to tie it at 1.
Scheduled for seven innings, the game swept quickly to the eleventh with both teams being sent down in order seven times with Hendrickson giving way to Pomeroy in the eighth while Murphy's day ended in the ninth to Ryan Miller.
Barton's best chance to break the tie came with one-out in the ninth but Tim Bell's third double of the year would become one of six stranded Cougars in the game while Butler stranded just two.
The game appeared headed to the 12th inning as Pomeroy struck out the first two batters and had No. 9 hole hitter Colby Deaville set up on an 0-2 count to become Butler's 13th straight batter retired. However, the Broomfield, Colorado, freshman had other ideas sending the third pitch over a leaping Fowler at the right field wall for his first collegiate home run sending the Grizzlies to the walk-off victory.
Game Two Recap
Shaking off the disappointing game one result, the Cougars put four on the board in the second inning with Brady Michel getting the Cougars rolling drilling a one-hopper to the right center wall for his team leading 24th double of the year. Brett Erickson followed with a single and four pitches later Barton loaded the bases as Pomeroy drew the first of his two walks in the game. Paul Claassen earned the RBI credit with a five pitch walk and two pitches later Chandler Kelley roped a two RBI double down the right field line to chase Butler starter Zach Bilek. The Cougars would manage just one more run in the inning, coming on the next at-bat on Harrison Denk's groundout as Bilek escaped further damage with a strikeout and ground out.
Going 4-for-4 in the nightcap, Michel again kick-started a run producing inning with a one-out single scoring an out later on a Pomeroy line drive to right field.
Andrew Repp was solid in the first two innings but was tested in the third with Deaville leading off the inning with a double. A one out infield single set up force play options but the Cougars committed a costly fielding error in a potential inning ending double play. Repp still looked to be getting out of the inning inducing a foul pop-up for the second out but a walk forced in a run and extended the at-bat with Joshua Cox making Barton pay with a grand slam long ball to right field tying the game at 5.
A Michel single and walks by Erickson and Claassen loaded the bases in the fifth but again the Cougars couldn't get the big hit in coming up empty.
Javier Pena rode the Butler momentum to the home half belting his 15th long ball of the season to chase Repp (5-3) on the eventual game winner. Easton Smith took over to get a groundout but consecutive singles gave the Grizzlies an extra insurance run.
Barton made things interesting in the final seventh inning with Michel leading off the inning with his fourth hit but was caught stealing on a late break to a ball in the dirt. Pinch hitter Bell reset the bases with a single to left after the pitch prior looked to have cut the margin to one with an apparent solo shot over the right field wall but as the Junction City freshman had rounded third on the home run trot the play was ruled a foul ball. Following Pomeroy's deep liner to the warning track for the second out, Claassen earned his third walk of the game but Butler reliever Ryan Miller shut down the threat getting Kelley on a called strike out to complete the sweep.
Pomeroy took the game one loss dropping to 3-2 on the season while fellow Topeka sophomore Repp slipped to 5-3 on the nightcap's loss.
Engroff's two hits led the Cougars' five in the opener with Michel's performance accounting for four of the nine nightcap's hits.